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February 2nd, 2012

Moving

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This hasn't been updated since last summer, and I think it won't be anymore, because of various reasons.

I don't want to give up writing in public, so I set up a new blog.

August 13th, 2011

 Ok, this seemed fun enough. Via gridlore   and kengr   . I have some things to write so this is a good way to pass the time...
Lots of books.Collapse )

May 16th, 2011

Gods what a movie

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Last Thursday I went to the movies. The film was, suitably enough, was Thor. I read Marvel comics a lot during the late Eighties and early Nineties, so I've tried to catch most of the Marvel movies, if only to see what changes they've made. Mostly I read X-men, as a friend had a lot of those and there weren't that many Marvel magazines published in Finnish. I think X-men, Spider-Man and then a more generic Marvel comic.

At that time, the X-men (and New Mutants) did some Asgård adventures, so I was kind of familiar with the Norse gods in the Marvel universe. I think they were my first proper contact with the Norse mythos - I had read a bit of the Madsen's Valhalla stories at about the same time, though. I don't think the blonde Thor is a good thing, but it's probably because Stan Lee or Jack Kirby just put a generic Norse man in the role. The Marvel stories are of course, well, marvelish, but I still like them. I have the X-men Asgård adventures in a book, they're the only Marvel comics I own anymore.

The movie itself wasn't that good, though not that bad. I'm kind of expecting the Avengers movie, so I wanted to see this as a prequel to that one.  The Asgård itself was cool, though Bifröst wasn't as nice as I'd like. The ice giants were a disappointment, in the comics they were much larger, more like moving mountains.

All in all, an average superhero movie. We watched it in 3D but that wasn't necessary as the best effects came in the end credits.

Nowadays the candy stores annoy me when I go to the movies. I have the habit of buying choose-your-candy, and it seems that there are less and less kinds in the stores nowadays. Also there are a lot of boxes where the candies are, but a lot of the boxes have the same candy - so it seems like there's more selection than actually exists. Annoying, I remember times when every box held a unique candy type (to the store anyway...)

February 5th, 2011

Old fresh breezes

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Last year, I read about Charles Stross's Laundry books being made into an RPG. I have read the original Laundry stories and I like them, so I pre-ordered the game as soon as it was available. Finally in December the book arrived and I had promised some friends to run a game, so I started a short campaign. We have now played two sessions and the game is good.

There is some nostalgia, of course. The Laundry game is based on Basic Roleplaying system, which is itself started as RuneQuest. That was my second RPG, after Red Box D&D, of course and I remember getting the Finnish RuneQuest box for Christmas and thinking (and maybe, just maybe, saying out loud) "this is a stupid game because it's not D&D". The Finnish RuneQuest was an amalgam of RQ 2 and RQ 3, and what I gather it is a good combination of both. I haven't read the new Mongoose RQs, so I don't know what they have made.

Anyway, to Laundry. The system is BRP, but John Snead has written a completely new magic system for the game, which captures the feel of the magic in the fiction books rather well. At least I got the impression from reading it:, the first adventure didn't have that much mechanics for sorcery.

I started a small game with three players. The basic character generation was really a blast from the past as it starts with rolling for attributes. I discussed the character ideas with players beforehand and said that they should roll the dice but they can then adjust as necessary. I thought this would create more interesting characters as I trusted my players to use the good and bad rolls. This also happened, the fake medium character rolled 18 for her Appearance which really fit, and the journalist character has 4 Power, which the player probably wouldn't have chosen. The attributes have different meaning from the RuneQuest I remember, they are mostly rolled by themselves and do not factor into skills that much.

The game has three adventures. I started by running the first, Going Down to Dunwich, which is kind of an introductory scenario for the game world and the rules of the game. It had some monologues from the teachers, but that was just expected - this is an infodump, after all. My players weren't bored by this, and seemed to like the adventure. I had to fudge things a bit as the book isn't clear what equipment the characters have available, but that was no big thing. Handing out wards was probably a good solution.

Running the scenario took one and a half sessions. We first created the characters and then started the adventure during that session, then completed it in the next session.

There was also one combat, and I had to adjust the opposition a bit as there were only three characters, and only one with proper combat skills. I have to think about running combat, it has never been my forte, and there was quite a large whiff factor in the game, with two non-combat characters trying to grapple for several rounds. Not that fun.

The combat also showed that firearms completely rule, at least when fighting cultists. Firearms get multiple actions each round and do more damage than most melee weapons. The one firearm the characters had was just a Glock 17 but it proved essential. Fun fact: the characters fired 7 shots in the game (they got also to use a shooting range) and one of these was a special success, two were fumbles, one was a success and three were misses. The special success was good as it killed the evil cultist in one shot.

I did leaf through the book more than I should've. I think I'll print out relevant pages before the next game. I want to run this game quite by the book as I want to see how they work.

From the two sessions played, I'd say this is a solid game. There's enough information to play a long campaign, though there could be more monsters. That's of course easily fixed by using Call of Cthulhu, this is a CoC game, after all. Of course any BRP things could be used with little work. I don't know how the magic will work in play, but I intend to set the next adventure a year after the first one, so the characters might get some skill in that. The jokes about the British Civil Service bureaucracy were a bit too close to the mark, as everybody had real life experiences with time tracking executives and company travel rules from beyond time and space... This is probably the difference between teenagers and thirtysomethings gaming...

One complaint I have is that the course system for downtime training is not applicable for everything. The characters can't learn any hobby skill using that and there's really no guideline for learning other things during downtime. That's a small matter and easily fixed by just giving a bunch of skillpoints to distribute to skills.

There's lot of background information so this is a good buy if you plan to game in the Laundry world even without using these rules.

December 13th, 2010

Old roleplaying games, again

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I've been reading Grognardia blog lately. Maliszewski writes about retro roleplaying, and he's been saying interesting things.

His posts made me read my old AD&D and Forgotten Realms books. I could almost think of running AD&D again, especially as reading the Waterdeep boxed set and the Waterdeep and the North module gave me ideas for an unusual campaign. At least I never before realized this aspect of Watedeep, even while setting adventures there.

Basis of the campaign would be some secret organization wanting to have more openness in the city. This is of course somewhat anachronistic, but as I read these books first time with thought after 15 years, I saw them with different eyes. Waterdeep's government is very scary: it consists of an unknown number of people, usually thought to be from ten to fifteen, whose identities are also unknown, except the one who is their public face. Laws and punishments are harsh, and are enforced through copious magic. Detect lies and Speak with dead are mentioned in multiple places. I cringed at the bit where the Guard just kills troublemakers, and if communication with the deceased suspect are satisfying enough, they are raised. I think most people learn to steer well away from these guys - or they Constitution will drop fast.

There's also an unwitting secret police, and even most of the government doesn't know this. There's also other stuff hinted at - who are these 'Harpers' and what exactly is their plan? The Watch also have unlimited power to search every residence in the city looking for illegalities.

I know that most of the government is labeled as good, and the Harpers are usually the main good secret organization in the Realms. This is where Maliszewski's idea of getting rid of Know Alignment spells and effects would be nice. This way the continuation of the government is never a sure thing, especially when they do have their own plans. This could turn Waterdeep into a magical police state, or nearer to one at least. Waterdhavians are described as being mostly concerned about trade and profit, so this could be some kind of a city state where all the people learn not to annoy the powers in the city and just go about on their business. The magical surveillance can't be in every place at once, so there are still possibilites for shady stuff, but as nobody knows who the Lords of Waterdeep are, one should be very, very careful.

My campaign idea would be to play relatively low-level characters in Waterdeep in a conspiracy. I don't know if they should be part of an existing organization or just be a small conspiracy in the City, but I think there's some group in the Forgotten Realms that could be made to fit. Also a noble or a merchant targeted too much by the faceless and nameless Lords could want to unmask them and perhaps bring some accountability to Waterdeep.

Also this time, after reading about Ed Greenwood on the Internet, I realized the numerous festhalls and ladies of negotiable affection in the books. I didn't notice them that much when playing AD&D, but I mostly played in Forgotten Realms as a teenager and we didn't add sex to our games that much then.

Waterdeep still seems like a fun, if somewhat silly, place to run AD&D. The fun is just different than what it used to be.

March 2nd, 2010

Roleplaying then and now

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This year has been good in my roleplaying front: I've started playing in two campaigns and I'm gamemastering one of my own. The games I have a single character in are Exalted and GURPS Vorkosigan, and I have played one session of both. They seem brilliant games and I expect to have fun playing those. My own game is a game of Heimot, a Finnish scifi game I have wanted to try out since it was published.

Yesterday we played the first session of the Vorkosigan game, and it seems to be a very good game, with nice people and fun characters. Our characters are a scientific team from Beta sent to Barrayar to study the planet and tie contacts to it. The session was fun and people seemed to easily get into their characters. There have been times when I'd thought that this kind of game just can't work - we're pretty close to the old Papers and Paychecks joke, with four academics and one security captain, but the social play and the game world makes it very, very fun. My character is an doctor in economics, so it is very close to a chartered accountant. It probably could work as one.

The trappings make things all different: the character is a designed hermaphrodite in space, even though it's best skills are Economics and Diplomacy. Also, the focus of the game seems to have shifted somewhat from my roleplaying beginnings: when I was young one important thing was the marching order in the dungeon. Yesterday we had tactical maps, but the first one was the seating arrangement during our dinner with our hosts and the second one was a map of our rooms in our designated wing, to determine who can easily hear what in which rooms.
Much fun was had. The game was a nice example of the rules not really mattering. I was a bit afraid at GURPS, because this is my first time playing it and the character creation was a bit more counting points than I like, but the game went smoothly and we used the character sheets mostly as memory aids about the character and their, well, character.

About the old games: the other day I found out that James Maliszewski, an RPG author, has a nice blog called Grognardia. He talks mostly about going to the roots of roleplaying, in a sense. He has interesting posts about the origins of D&D and also reviews of new and old games. I read through that blog and dug out my old red D&D box to read through. The game was fun the twenty-odd years ago, and I see no reason why it couldn't be fun now. I think I'll run that for some time after I have less other games. Of course rolling 3d6 six times in order, starting from the first level and seeing what happens. I think I'll pass the first group adventure as many people have played that already, and that first carrion crawler is a killer.

So, lots of good gaming going on, and also with new people.

January 21st, 2010

Avatars on the Moon

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Christmas and New year came and went. I also saw a couple of new scifi movies: Avatar and Moon. Both were good, but in their own way.

Spoilers to Avatar and MoonCollapse )

December 6th, 2009

Christmas is coming

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This weekend I have spent more time than usual baking. This week I had the idea of making pizza on Saturday, and bought some pizza flour (with durum wheat). I have never used that kind of flour in making pizzas, but the dough turned out nice and the pizza was delicious. Thin crust, enough tomato sauce and toppings. Mm.

Also, yesterday, I made some gingerbread dough, to make gingerbread cookies. I haven't made the dough myself in something like twenty years, because it's easy to buy from grocery stores, but this time I wanted to make my own. The most distinguishing thing was that I used raw ginger instead of dried. I don't know if it made the difference, but at least the cookies taste great.

We also got a new cookie cutter. I like the heavy metal symbolism here:

Heavy metal cookie cutter

The real reason for the sign is the phrase 'I love you' in ASL. I don't speak it at all except for a couple of signs, but I think the Internet is a reliable source here.

The resulting cookies look nice, too, and didn't even get burned.




I have to make more of these, at least one batch before Christmas.

November 22nd, 2009

A nice movie

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We went and watched the new Miyazaki animation, Ponyo. It was a good film, and especially I liked that it was a friendly film. There was an ad for a new Disney children's animation which made the contrast even bigger.

What I liked most about the movie was that even though it had suspense and conflict it didn't have an evil villain. There was opposition to the protagonists, of course, and some violence, but mostly everybody had a good motive to do what they did, and nobody was perfect.

All in all, I recommend this for both children and adults - not sure about teens but I could've liked it even then.

October 7th, 2009

I both saw a good scifi movie and read a good scifi book recently. I think they even have some things in common.

The movie was District 9. It is a South African film about aliens who have arrived on Earth, but live in slums as they don't seem to have drive to do something. There was action and plot, and I liked the film. It did not explain everything, although the parts which were done in document style gave enough to know something about what was going on.

The book I read was Old man's war by John Scalzi (recommended by Orava, thanks again). It is about a future where off-planet colonization is in the hands of an organization which is quite close-mouthed about what they do and how. The space army wants to recruit old people, for various reasons. The story is very Heinleinian but not as annoying. It also leaves things unexplained, which is good. (Though there was an ad for a sequel.) It also brought Starslip to my mind once or twice, which was a good thing.

I liked both of them, and much of that was that not-explaining-everything. Go read and watch.

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